Two key New York Racing Association officials were charged yesterday with falsely reporting the weight of several prominent jockeys at NYRA's three thoroughbred tracks and defrauding the betting public and the horses' trainers and owners, state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said.
An indictment unsealed in Saratoga County Court charges NYRA clerk of the scales Mario Sclafani and assistant clerk of the scales Braulio Baeza with 291 criminal counts, including scheme to defraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records, tampering with a sports contest and grand larceny.
Sclafani, 48, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment yesterday. The 65-year-old Baeza, a Hall of Fame jockey who won the 1963 Kentucky Derby, is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 6.
The two are accused of allowing jockeys Jose Santos, who rode Funny Cide to victory in the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Robby Albarado, Herbert Castillo Jr., Ariel Smith and Cornelio Velasquez to ride 67 times at Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct from June 23, 2004, to Dec. 15, 2004, even though they were seven to 15 pounds over their announced weight. The races included 10 stakes contests, including the Grade I, $350,000 Cigar Mile.
New York racing rules state that even a one-pound difference between the published weight and the actual weight must be announced to the public prior to the race and horse owners may replace a jockey if he is more than two pounds over the designated weight for a horse.
"These two officials basically had one job to do and that was to ensure that the weight of the jockeys was recorded accurately and then disclosed to bettors," Spitzer said. "Instead, they misled the public and compromised the integrity of races run by NYRA."
-- From News Services